Hamilton strikes back to top FP2 ahead of Rosberg in Belgium

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Lewis Hamilton has finished fastest in the second free practice session for the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps today, beating Nico Rosberg by a full six-tenths of a second at the top of the timesheets.

The Briton was forced to settle for second place during first practice on Friday morning, but despite encountering two red flags that limited running in the first half of the session, Hamilton produced a fine flying lap to finish well clear of Rosberg.

Sebastian Vettel’s session was over before it had even begun, with Red Bull confirming that an engine failure on Friday morning warranted a complete overhaul of the power unit. It remains to be seen whether or not he will face any penalties this weekend.

Esteban Gutierrez and Pastor Maldonado also endured difficult sessions, with the latter spinning on the run down to Pouhons to bring out the first red flag of the day. Although he walked away unharmed, Maldonado has left the Lotus pit crew with a lot of work to do on his car overnight.

Gutierrez’s off was a little less spectacular, as he spun at Blanchimont and was unable to get the car back going. He finished down in 17th place.

Max Chilton returned to the wheel of the Marussia MR03 after Alexander Rossi’s run-out in FP1, and finished in 18th. Just behind, Andre Lotterer continued to impress for Caterham, finishing less than half a tenth shy of Marcus Ericsson despite it only being his second time in the car. However, his session also came to an early end following an electrical fault on his car.

Behind Rosberg, Fernando Alonso once again finished as the best of the rest, some seven-tenths behind Hamilton’s time. Felipe Massa showed signs of Williams’ expected good pace at Spa in fourth, ahead of Jenson Button and teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Daniil Kvyat finished seventh for Toro Rosso, with Daniel Ricciardo in eighth. Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg rounded out the top ten.

Once again, it appears that Mercedes is set to dominate this weekend, but the battle just behind is very close indeed. Be sure to join us tomorrow for qualifying live on CNBC from 8am ET, before the race on Sunday which is live on NBCSN from 7.30am.

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.